The Afrikaner Great Trek is mostly responsible for the settlement of Europeans in the interior of Southern Africa. On the accounts of missionaries and explorers, colonists and their wagons set out for the high veld from the Cape Colony in search of ‘open’ and ‘available’ land.
Led by Piet Retief, they crossed the Orange River and the Vaal, where they would encounter resistance by the Matabele, then, into Natal, where they would meet the Zulu and their Chief Dingane. Retief and his party would be slain by Dingane in 1838, but the ‘Voortrekkers’ would win a decisive victory at the Battle of Blood River later in the year. Within two years, the Afrikaners had formed an alliance with a Zulu ‘crown’ competitor, which quickly led to the defeat of Dingane, and a more secure environment for settlement. Within twenty years, three Afrikaner states had been created: the South African Republic with its capital in Pretoria, the Orange Free State, and the Natal Republic.